Epic Blog

A word about SAFARI camp trip price increases

10.16.11

We thought it would be helpful to show the full picture of why we continue to increase the price of our Alaska Wilderness SAFARI camp. (It’s definitely not “just because we can.”)

SUMMARY

  • Weather-related flying delays are on the increase all across Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula.
  • To compensate, in 2010 we began utilizing the helicopter more often to more reliably transport people and gear to/from our extremely remote fishing camp.
  • Helicopter operating cost are much higher than fixed wing “bush” planes.
  • We are flying the helicopter more than anticipated (but have far fewer flying delays/issues compared to fixed wing only transportation).

Helicopter gets ready as fixed wing planes are grounded

THE DETAILS…

Over the last decade a fairly widespread trend of poor weather (more fog related, rather than extreme weather conditions) has developed across Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula. This has caused more flight delays to/from fishing camps all over southwest Alaska. In 2010 we made a dramatic program change in order to compensate, offering a safer and more reliable way to transport guests to/from our SAFARI camp.

(Note: SAFARI camp is located in an extremely remote region of the Alaska Peninsula, an area notorious for inherently challenging weather conditions. Why? Because there are two large bodies of water at different temperatures (the Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean) interfaced along the large and isolated Aleutian [mountain] Range. So it is already inherently challenging to travel to/from camp. But the fog is worse now compared to a decade ago.)

Prior to 2010 our program included 2 days of helicopter fly-out fishing and a fixed wing only charter flight to/from camp on Saturdays. If the weather that day was bad, we either waited for the weather to clear, or if it was available, we could charter a helicopter at additional cost to transport you and gear to/from camp.

(Note: Helicopters are not as limited as fixed wing aircraft while flying in poor weather conditions around mountains and mountain passes. Why? Because they can fly slow and/or they can stop, hover, and turn around when encountering poor weather. Yes, however, the weather can be bad enough to ground helicopters.)

Starting in 2010 the program included only 1 day of helicopter fly-out fishing and Saturday (“change-out” day) evolved to a fixed wing and/or helicopter strategy. That is, if the weather was good, we fly more fixed wing. If the weather is crummy, we utilize the helicopter more at no additional cost to you.

The financial problem with our new Saturday charter flight strategy is we are flying the helicopter far more often than expected. In other words, Mother Nature is not cooperating with our Excel spreadsheet! And the helicopter is 3X the operating cost of the fixed wing!

Although using the helicopter is far more reliable (and safer) in getting guests to/from camp in poor weather conditions (and has clearly reduced the number of flying delays), it is not financially sustainable for our business at the currrent frequency of use.

From our informal polls, the clear majority of guests agree on 3 things:

  • You like the 2010 program change (a.k.a. they would rather give up 1 day of included heli-fishing in order to more consistently get to/from camp).
  • You like the idea of having the option to upgrade to additional heli fly-outs.
  • You are willing to pay more for the week-long trip, with the understanding that the increase is to cover additional flying costs (not going towards additional net income).

A few guests expressed concern in losing [the value of] the previously included 2nd day of helicopter fishing (it is certainly an awesome part of the week’s adventure), but they may have never been stuck in King Salmon waiting for the weather to clear! (It is extremely frustrating to be stuck in a small town wishing you were fishing.)

The bottomline is the helicopter adds transportation consistency in a remote area of Alaska. This “convenience” simply costs a lot of money.

Posted in News, SAFARI


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